On Monday, I’ll be appearing on CBS New York’s “Live From The Couch” on TV10/55, between 7:00-9:00 am, giving Thanksgiving turkey tips and answering viewer’s questions. Here’s my recipe for Roast Turkey with Gravy and Cornbread Dressing.
Roast Turkey with Cornbread, Pecan and Sage Dressing
I haven’t given a specific weight for the turkey—allow 1 pound per person. Unless everyone you’re feeding has a huge appetite this amount will give everyone plenty and leave you some leftovers for turkey sandwiches the next day.
If you’re concerned about your turkey being dry, brining ahead of time is a great way to help the bird be juicy and flavorful. Just remember a few things: check the turkey label when you buy it– sometimes turkeys come brined (no need to do it twice!); a good brine should be started at least 24 hours before cooking, so you need enough space in your refrigerator to accommodate a large container that can hold the turkey and the brine; finally, the brine can make the pan drippings salty, so be careful when adding salt (or a salty broth) to the gravy.
Don’t overcook the bird. When a thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 165F, the turkey is cooked to a safe temperature, but still juicy. Avoid any temptation you might have to carve the turkey right away. If you do, the meat will not hold the juices and it will be dry and flavorless. Let the turkey rest at least ½ hour before slicing. This gives you plenty of time to make the gravy and bake the dressing.
1 turkey, giblets removed from cavity, wing tips removed
1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
3-4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery), coarsely chopped, for filling cavity
8-10 sprigs of parsley and sage, for filling cavity
kosher salt, as needed –only if not brining turkey
For the stuffing: (makes about 8-10 servings)
8 cups cornbread, crumbled and toasted
4 tablespoon butter or drippings from the turkey
2 medium onions, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
1/4 cup chopped sage
3 cups turkey or chicken stock
salt and pepper
For the gravy:
3 tablespoons turkey drippings
¼ cup flour
4 cups turkey or chicken stock
Salt and pepper, if needed
- If brining: 24-48 hours before cooking combine the water, salt, sugar and aromatics for the brine in a pan or container large enough to hold the turkey (I use a large plastic bucket, but many stores sell brining bags). Submerge the turkey in the liquid and refrigerate.
- Prepare the turkey for roasting: Heat oven to 375 F. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Place the chopped mirepoix and herbs inside the turkey cavity. Truss the turkey by tying the legs together with all-cotton string. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan. Brush the surface with the melted butter. If the turkey wasn’t brined, season lightly with salt.
- Roast the turkey: Place the turkey in the middle of the heated oven. Roast the turkey for about 15 minutes a pound. Check the turkey periodically to baste and make sure it is not browning too rapidly. I like to baste about every ½ hour. Cover the turkey loosely with foil only if the skin gets too dark. The turkey is done when the internal temperature in the thigh is 165F. Remove the turkey from the pan and let it rest at least ½ hour before carving. Pour off the excess drippings in the roasting pan, leaving the 3 tablespoons needed for preparing the gravy. The excess drippings can be used for the dressing, if desired.
- For the dressing: Place the cornbread cubes on a sheet tray. Toast in the oven until the cubes are dry and light brown around the edges. Cool. In a large sauté pan, warm the turkey drippings or butter over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally until they are limp and translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Combine the cornbread, onions, pecans, sage and chicken stock and season with salt and pepper. Place the dressing in a baking dish. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the dressing is beginning to brown and crisp on the surface.
- For the gravy: Place the reserved roasting pan over medium heat. Briefly warm the remaining drippings in the pan, then add the flour. Stir the flour and fat together constantly with a heat-resistant spoon to form a roux. Cook the roux for 3-4 minutes, or until it develops a light brown color. Lower the heat and whisk the turkey stock into the roux. Simmer the gravy, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes. If it is awkward to leave the gravy in the roasting pan while simmering, carefully pour the gravy into a saucepan. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.